Fun story: my first review ever written for this paper, “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” had a small teaser for this film attached to it announcing the film, which means that now, everything has come full circle.
Quentin Tarantino, put simply, has molded me into the person I am today. When “Kill Bill” came into my life at a very volatile time, things changed completely for me. Since then, not a single film I’ve seen, and I’ve seen quite a few films, have even measured close to the complete and utter masterpiece that is the “Kill Bill” saga. Since “Kill Bill,” Tarantino has made two other films, “Inglorious Basterds” and “Django Unchained,” two more masterpieces, and while not quite on the level of “Kill Bill,” it certainly keeps Tarantino in my top four untouchable directors with Christopher Nolan, David Fincher and Ridley Scott. But this piece, “The Hateful Eight,” took a bit more time to get to the screen than what Tarantino might have wanted. Due to a script leak early into production, Tarantino completely re-wrote the script and took more time to ensure that what the public saw in the leaked script was not what we saw on screen. With its typically great Tarantino cast, western feel and witty writing seen from the trailer, “The Hateful Eight” was sure to please.
But wait, there’s more.
Tarantino stepped beyond the boundaries of what any standard, modern filmmaker would do; he shot the film on 70mm film, but not just any 70mm film, Ultra Panavision 70, a format not used since “Khartoum” in 1966. Tarantino not only wanted the extreme detail that comes with 70mm film more than any other filming style available, but he wanted it to mimic that of old epics, in the super wide 2.76:1 aspect ratio. To put this in perspective, a standard HD television is 1.78:1, or 16:9 (1.85:1 in theatrical exhibitions) and when a movie has black bars at the top and bottom of this TV, it’s typically 2.40:1, the two typical shooting styles for modern filmmaking, but Tarantino stretched this beyond what any modern movie theater can take by pushing it to Ultra Panavision 70 with a 2.76:1 aspect ratio. So how will theaters exhibit this film? Well, in digital theaters, the film will be shown on a 2.40:1 screen with black bars at the top and bottom of the screen to fit the image, but Tarantino has yet another wrench in the game with his Roadshow exhibition. On Dec. 25, The Weinstein Company will show “The Hateful Eight” on a few 70mm screens outfitted by the company to show “The Hateful Eight” in its full, 70mm glory, with a version of the film specially made for this viewing. The Roadshow experience will encompass the best of golden cinema by not only including six more minutes of footage, but also alternate shots exclusive to the 70mm version, as well as an overture and intermission (it needs it, at 182 minutes), it feels like the ’60s all over again … if I was ever there.
But Hunter, will The Weinstein Company be showing this version of the film in Charlotte? Yes, they will be. Regal Stonecrest is outfitting their theater with a 70mm theater for the film, shooting for a Christmas completion date.
For the sake of this review, press were shown the Roadshow version of the film in digital.
Now that we’ve gotten past this, is the film any good? Of course it is.
From the start, you can tell “The Hateful Eight” is special, with its glorious overture leading into an almost unsuitably creepy opening credits sequence that’s explained later in the film. You can tell early on that this is a Tarantino film and by early on, I mean the first shot of the film and every shot following it. The film starts with cavalryman Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) hitching a ride with bounty hunter John Ruth “The Hangman” (Kurt Russell), his driver O.B. (James Parks) and his bounty, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). The simple exchanges between the three in the stagecoach are worth the price of admission alone, with Domergue playing the angel of chaos in the midst of two old acquaintances catching up with each other. From here, the trio pick up a lost traveler claiming to be the new sheriff of their destination, hesitantly picking him up. Due to a violent blizzard holding them in, they’re forced to make a stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a familiar resting place, but with owner Minnie leaving the place to Bob (Demian Bichir) and a group of shady strangers inside (Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen), the group begins to wonder if any foul play is about trapped inside a small cabin.
Every single member of the cast hits it directly out of the park, but it’s Leigh as Domergue who steals the show from everyone. At first, I saw it as Roth and Jackson doing most of the work, but there came a point in the plot where Domergue became a bigger player in the production and all hell breaks loose. Leigh, a moderately popular actress at one time, had pretty much dropped off the map before this film, but what a grand fashion to remind people that you’re as relevant as ever. Leigh is shockingly good as the psychotic killer Domergue, but also incredibly magnetic, making her character as completely likable as she possibly could. Of course, we’re supposed to hate her, but how could we possibly hate someone so interesting. Leigh is a bonafide star here and it’s all our fault for not noticing it before now.
As noted before, the other two standouts come with lead Jackson and supporting player Roth. Roth, known as one of the best character actors in Hollywood, fills the shoes of eccentric Brit Oswaldo Mobray almost scarily well, as I’m sure the role was written specifically for him. Jackson is always great, even in crappy projects, but is especially good here. The character of Warren is a fascinating one; seeing as almost everyone in the cabin has a disdain for black people, Warren’s endearing spirit is a wonderful character trait to have and gives way for some good humorous dialogue between the characters.
Speaking of dialogue, there is a lot of it. For the first 100 minutes of “The Hateful Eight,” Tarantino doesn’t give much way for violence and action, but provides us with nothing but dialogue, which sounds like a drag anywhere else, but we’re in Tarantino’s world, so this can only be a good thing. Despite not having any action, the dialogue of “The Hateful Eight” is spectacularly entertaining in itself; I could watch it all day. I wouldn’t be surprised for a single second if “The Hateful Eight” took home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, anything less is a snub. One thing to be aware of with “The Hateful Eight” is, like “Django Unchained,” which both take place in the mid-1800s, the film is pretty accurate with race politics of the time, which yes, includes the N-word. So, I’ll issue a warning here, if that word bothers you, stay far away from “The Hateful Eight,” no matter how good it is.
How does the 70mm look you ask? That can’t be answered, as press were screened a digital version of the film, but even on a tiny digital screen, “The Hateful Eight” is one of the most gorgeous films of the year, if not only for how wide and spacious the image is. I can’t wait to see the film over Christmas break in full 70mm glory, but for now, you can take my word on its beauty in its smallest form. Tarantino pulls his scale back on this film, confining most of the film into the small cabin that is Minnie’s Haberdashery, which surprisingly works wonderfully with the wide, flat cinematography. The detail put forth in this film is rivaled by none other, which will in turn, really give Emmanuel Lubezki and Roger Deakins a run for their money come Oscar time.
At 182 minutes (176 minutes for the non-Roadshow cut), “The Hateful Eight” is incredibly long, but incredibly worth it. The biggest advantage of the Roadshow cut outside of the 70mm presentation, comes with its intermission, which gives audiences 12 minutes to stretch their legs, get snacks and use the bathroom and is not only a really stylish choice for the film, but an incredibly convenient one for someone like me, who tends to have to use the bathroom occasionally in movies, but are forced to hold it. Even at this length though, Tarantino keeps it completely justified by keeping every second of the film relevant to the story, never once stopping to mess around or show off that he’s Tarantinto. He has nothing to prove here, so he simply works.
Being a Tarantino film though, “The Hateful Eight” is violent, incredibly violent, which comes mostly in its second half. The film has its own style of gore that only Tarantino can pull off in this day and age, using practical effects and real blood squibs with copious amounts for the smallest injury, Tarantino brings the blood like none other and “The Hateful Eight” is no exception. The film is almost shockingly violent at points, meaning that anyone even slightly predisposed to extreme violence should also stay far away from “The Hateful Eight.”
But in the end, why should you see “The Hateful Eight?” Because it’s f**king fun, that’s why. I’m sure that whether you see the film in digital or 70mm, standard or Roadshow cuts, you’re going to have a blast, as Tarantino always brings fun to the table. “The Hateful Eight” occasionally goes into darker territory than typical Tarantino films, meaning he’s not simply repeating the same things he always does, but “The Hateful Eight” brings beautiful Tarantino trademarks with new faces, places and kills. The story is completely enthralling in its simplicity and really focuses on characters and the actors behind them with Tarantino’s near perfect screenplay. The film is gorgeously, uniquely shot and a film that hopefully can preserve 70mm longer than digital enthusiasts can hope it will. “The Hateful Eight” is the past, present and future rolled all into one film and does so with such style, you won’t find another film like it this year, or ever.
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern. Co-starring: Michael Parks and Channing Tatum.
Runtime: 167 minutes (standard), 182 minutes (Roadshow, not including 12-minute intermission)
Rating: R for strong bloody violence, a scene of violent sexual content, language and some graphic nudity.
Available in 70mm Roadshow on Dec. 25 at Regal Stonecrest. In theatres everywhere Jan. 1.
The Weinstein Company presents, the 8th film by Quentin Tarantino, “The Hateful Eight”